13 doctors weighed in:
Does the presence of a bulging fontanel (soft spot) mean that my baby has meningitis?
13 doctors weighed in

Dr. Sarosh Batlivala
Pediatrics - Cardiology
3 doctors agree
In brief: Possibly, but...
A bulging fontanel is associated with meningitis.
But babies with meningitis have other issues, which may include fevers, poor feeding, lethargy. And bulging fontanel is not only caused by meningitis either. Please see your child's pediatrician if you are concerned.

In brief: Possibly, but...
A bulging fontanel is associated with meningitis.
But babies with meningitis have other issues, which may include fevers, poor feeding, lethargy. And bulging fontanel is not only caused by meningitis either. Please see your child's pediatrician if you are concerned.
Dr. Sarosh Batlivala
Dr. Sarosh Batlivala
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Dr. Ruben Nazario
Pediatrics
2 doctors agree
In brief: Yes
It could be. A bulging soft spot can indicate increased pressure in the brain, which can happen with meningitis and other serious conditions.
But the fontanelle can also bulge with vigorous crying or straining. If other symptoms of meningitis, such as fever, irritability and a rash, appear with the bulging fontanelle, seek immediate medial attention. Meningitis is a very serious condition.

In brief: Yes
It could be. A bulging soft spot can indicate increased pressure in the brain, which can happen with meningitis and other serious conditions.
But the fontanelle can also bulge with vigorous crying or straining. If other symptoms of meningitis, such as fever, irritability and a rash, appear with the bulging fontanelle, seek immediate medial attention. Meningitis is a very serious condition.
Dr. Ruben Nazario
Dr. Ruben Nazario
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1 doctor agrees
In brief: No
A bulging fontanelle will not be the only sign of meningitis.
Babies with meningitis usually have fever, are irritable or lethargic, and do not eat normally. We usually check the fontanelle in a sitting position, so just laying flat can make a baby seem to have a bulging fontanelle. Your doctor will also plot the head circumference to make sure the brain and skull are developing normally.

In brief: No
A bulging fontanelle will not be the only sign of meningitis.
Babies with meningitis usually have fever, are irritable or lethargic, and do not eat normally. We usually check the fontanelle in a sitting position, so just laying flat can make a baby seem to have a bulging fontanelle. Your doctor will also plot the head circumference to make sure the brain and skull are developing normally.
Dr. Victoria Acharya
Dr. Victoria Acharya
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Dr. Julia Sundel
Pediatrics
1 doctor agrees
In brief: Yes
This is a sign of meningitis.
It could also be due to hydrocephalus (fluid buildup in the skull). Call your pediatrician right away.

In brief: Yes
This is a sign of meningitis.
It could also be due to hydrocephalus (fluid buildup in the skull). Call your pediatrician right away.
Dr. Julia Sundel
Dr. Julia Sundel
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Dr. Cory Annis
Internal Medicine & Pediatrics
In brief: No
No, but it does mean your baby should see a doctor immediately as that can be a sign of pressure build-up in or around the brain and/or spinal cord.

In brief: No
No, but it does mean your baby should see a doctor immediately as that can be a sign of pressure build-up in or around the brain and/or spinal cord.
Dr. Cory Annis
Dr. Cory Annis
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Dr. Kristen Stuppy
Pediatrics
In brief: No
A bulging fontanel with fever, fussiness, poor feeding, and other signs of being sick can mean meningitis and definitely should be brought to the doctor immediately.
However, ear infections, screaming, positioning, and more can lead to a full soft spot. In an otherwise healthy child you can call your doctor's office to see if they want to see your child.

In brief: No
A bulging fontanel with fever, fussiness, poor feeding, and other signs of being sick can mean meningitis and definitely should be brought to the doctor immediately.
However, ear infections, screaming, positioning, and more can lead to a full soft spot. In an otherwise healthy child you can call your doctor's office to see if they want to see your child.
Dr. Kristen Stuppy
Dr. Kristen Stuppy
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In brief: No
A baby who is acting sick (won't eat, is vomiting, running a fever, acting very listless) and has a bulging fontanelle should be presumed to have meningitis until proven otherwise.
This is a very urgent symptom needing immediate medical attention. Well babies can have bulging fontanelles if they are screaming hard or if they have other medical conditions. If it is always bulging, see a doctor.

In brief: No
A baby who is acting sick (won't eat, is vomiting, running a fever, acting very listless) and has a bulging fontanelle should be presumed to have meningitis until proven otherwise.
This is a very urgent symptom needing immediate medical attention. Well babies can have bulging fontanelles if they are screaming hard or if they have other medical conditions. If it is always bulging, see a doctor.
Dr. Sharon Gilliland
Dr. Sharon Gilliland
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